Borussia Dortmund and Schalke top Champions League groups | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.12.2012
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Borussia Dortmund and Schalke top Champions League groups

Both Borussia Dortmund and Schalke have finished atop their groups in the Champions League. Dortmund even did so in the "Group of Death," beating the champions of the Netherlands, England and Spain on the way.

Dortmund won 1-0 in front of their home fans despite a massively depleted lineup against the most expensive team in the world, Manchester City. Ruhr valley rivals Schalke, also far from full strength, could only draw 1-1 with Montpellier. This was enough to top Group B, though, after Olympiakos Piraeus came from a goal down to beat Arsenal in the group's other game.

Borussia Dortmund went into Tuesday's game playing only for pride, already secure at the summit of the "Group of Death," having bested Ajax, Manchester City and Real Madrid with a game to spare. Real monstered off-color Ajax 4-1 in the other game to book their ticket to the last 16 of the Champions League.

City were also playing primarily for pride, seeking to avoid becoming the only ever Premiership side to bow out of the Champions League without a single group-stage victory. They failed.

Second-string Schieber uses his chance

Among the many changes in Dortmund's side, Stuttgart old-boy Julian Schieber was given a rare go up front in Robert Lewandowski's stead. As well as some impressive first half moments, albeit overshadowed by some standard Marco Reus antics, Schieber scored the only goal of the game courtesy of an assist from Reus's half-time replacement, Jakub Blaszczykowski.

A combination of injuries, near-injuries and tired legs after Dortmund's big game in Bavaria at the weekend meant that coach Jürgen Klopp gave several youngsters a chance. Twenty-year-old Oliver Kirch had one of Dortmund's first shots but failed to really test easily City's most impressive player, keeper Joe Hart. Moritz Leitner, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Saturday, was a clear candidate for man of the match, marshalling the middle of the park against City's multi-million superstars. Summer signing Leonardo Bittencourt, at just 18 years of age, made his Champions League debut as a substitute at the death.

By that stage, City looked ready to board their plane and head home. A tight match transformed into a walkover in the latter stages as the men in blue dropped their heads and started eying the clock.

Draxler dazzles, Schalke stumble

Schalke were playing in their alternative white, not blue, in Montpellier - facing a French side seeking to show that it was better than its winless Champions League record suggested.

epa03496551 Benedikt Hoewedes (C) of FC Schalke 04 celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against Montpellier during the UEFA Champions League group B soccer match between Montpellier and FC Schalke 04 in Montpellier, France, 04 December 2012. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Benedikt Höwedes broke the deadlock, but that was Schalke's last high point

Without reportedly unsettled striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, coach Huub Stevens gave both Teemu Pukki and Ciprian Marica a chance toward the sharp end. Pukki had one of the finest first-half chances, created by teen regular Julian Draxler, but missed from close in.

Draxler created another chance in style in the early going, for Marica, embarrassing his man with some ball-juggling before pinging a pinpoint cross with the outside of his right foot. The teen technician, who almost made Joachim Löw's Euro 2012 squad this summer, continued his strong form since returning from a nasty fracture to his wrist early in the season.

Schalke's goal came almost in lockstep with Dortmund, via Benedikt Höwedes shortly before the hour mark. Höwdes had a little help from his defensive running mate for the evening, veteran Christoph Metzelder, who headed a free kick into his younger captain's path. Höwedes had to dive low to head it home.

While Dortmund improved, and nearly doubled their money, after scoring - Schalke fell apart. The Royal Blues immediately conceded an equalizer to Montpellier striker Emanuel Herrera and looked the lesser side for the remainder of the game. Herrera might have made it two seconds after the goal, and then again in the dying minutes. Veteran keeper Timo Hildebrand was rolled back the years in the final third of the game to rescue the result

Atsuto Uchida had an eventful night at right back. Lucky to last the distance after a nasty first half challenge that was only awarded a yellow card, he was the second-half hero with a last-gasp goal-line clearance.

Both Schalke and Dortmund progress to the last 16 of the Champions League. Their opponents are not yet decided. Bayern Munich play BATE Borisov, seeking both group victory and revenge for their opening day defeat, on Wednesday.